The Miners' 5-1 start could largely be attributed to the 6-foot-2, 220-pound senior, who tossed 14 touchdown passes and only 2 interceptions during that span. Over the past three games, however, Vittatoe has hit a rough streak, throwing two TDs and six picks (including three in a 21-6 loss to UAB on October 16th).
UTEP loves to put the ball in the air. Vittatoe has thrown 30-or-more passes in all but two games, including a season-high 54 attempts in a 54-20 loss to Houston in Week Two.
Vittatoe has been hampered lately by injuries to both of his ankles. The problems apparently first surfaced in the ill-fated UTEP/UAB game and continued the following week in the Miners' loss to Tulane. Vittatoe missed some practice time, but has continued to gut it out during games.
The Miners (5-4, 2-4) deserve extra credit for their quick start to the 2010 slate, because they did it without RB Donald Buckram, who was injured in the preseason.
Buckham, who set the school single-season rushing record in 2009 with 1,594 yards, has since returned to the lineup. He's also an accompished receiver, having caught 30 passes for 454 yards and 3 TDs last year.
The senior RB has 273 yards on the ground (on 59 carries) with one touchdown. His best effort came two weeks ago vs. Tulane (10-81, 1 TD).
In his place, UTEP found a more-than-adequate replacement in Joseph Banyard, a junior from Sweetwater. Banyard has 405 yards on 76 attempts (5.3 yards per carry) with 5 TDs.
The receiving corps is anchored by Kris Adams, who ranks eighth on the Miners' career reception list with 131 catches. Adams has caught a pass in 33 consecutive games, including a 7-reception, 114-yard (with 1 TD) outpouring against Houston. For the year, Adams (6-3, 195) has 34 receptions for 707 yards (20.8 ypc) with 10 TDs.
UTEP kicker Dakota Warren is perfect on extra points (28-for-28) and has converted on 11 of 16 field goals, including 2 of 3 from 50+ yards (long of 57).
LB Isaiah Carter, who was battling for a starting spot in the preseason, has come through big this year. He leads the team in tackles with 67 and has intercepted a pass.
Another junior linebacker, Jamie Irving, is second on the team with 58 stops and he is first on the team with 4.5 tackles for loss. Irving has also recorded an inteception.
UTEP, with only 9.5 sacks, hasn't enjoyed much success with its pass rush. No player has more than two sacks.
The top player in the secondary is junior CB Travaun Nixon, who has three of the team's nine picks. He's also fifth on the team with 52 tackles.
Opposing offenses have fared well early against the Miners, with six of nine foes scoring on their first drive.